John Dowland, classical music composer

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John Dowland

Biography

John Dowland was a prominent figure in the late Renaissance period both as a composer and as one of the foremost performers on the lute. He personified the melancholy that was so much in vogue in Elizabethan England, eventually composing the self-deprecatingly titled piece "Sempre Dowland, sempre dolens" ("Always Dowland, always doleful"). Though he was aware of the musical trends in Continental Europe and at times employed them, his output was dominated by the lute ayre, a form peculiar to England and more or less codified with the publication of his First Book of Songs in London in 1597. An influential collection of lute music, it was constructed in such a manner that allowed performance by a soloist with lute accompaniment or by various combinations of singers and instrumentalists. Two other books of songs followed, as wells as his Lachrymae in 1604 and A Pilgrimes Solace in 1612, generally regarded as his best work.

Little is known of Dowland's early life. His date of birth is unknown though it is generally believed he was born in London. It is known, however, that by 1580 Dowland left his homeland for the European continent, settling in Paris and working in the service of Sir Henry Cobham, ambassador to the French court. During his time in the French capital, he converted to Catholicism, which he would later cite as the reason he was not offered a position at Elizabeth I's Protestant court after he returned to his homeland in 1584. However, this was unlikely the case since other prominent Catholic musicians, for instance William Byrd, were not hindered in securing court positions in England.

Beginning in 1598, Dowland served in the court of Christian IV of Denmark, a music enthusiast that paid him a substantial salary. Dowland, on the other hand, was less than the ideal servant. He often stayed longer than was permitted in England for various reasons and in 1606 was finally dismissed on grounds of unsatisfactory conduct. Following his dismal, he entered the service of Lord Howard de Walden until he was appointed as one of James I's lutenists in 1612. Dowland's date of birth is also unknown, though his was buried at St. Ann's, Blackfriars, London, on February 20, 1626.


Composer Title Date Action
John Dowland Volta 01/13/2009 Play Add to playlist